Archive by Author

Cigar Tip: Don’t Get Slammed on the New-Release Treadmill

18 May 2015

Cigar Shop

One of the great things about cigars is the incredible choice available. Unfortunately, it’s one of the not-so-great things as well.

Every day seems to bring news of a new release, a limited edition, a store special—or, more likely, several of each. One email I received recently touted five new limited cigars. As we approach the annual summer trade show, the stream of new announcements will almost certainly become a flood.

A dedicated cigar lover could go crazy, and broke, trying to keep up.

I suggest you don’t. Go crazy or broke, that is.

Now, I’m not recommending you forgo new cigars. Far from it. I’m just advocating a little thought and preparation to maximize the enjoyment potential of the purchases you do make.

First, remember that selling cigars is not like selling most other consumables. The premium cigar market is small and barely growing, if at all. A large percentage of cigar smokers have only a handful of sticks a week and rarely venture beyond a few brands.

Two companies—Altadis and General—dominate the market; add in a few other big players like Padrón, Fuente, and Rocky Patel, and you see why smaller manufacturers face a tough battle. They’re fighting for a thin slice of a not-so-big pie.

For many of those small manufacturers, social media has had a huge impact. Even though the cigar digerati is a relatively small subset of the market, it’s a vocal and influential component. Generating buzz and producing the next hot stick can make the difference between being a success and an also-ran. All of which leads to more releases, more limited editions, more store exclusives, and on and on.

Here are three thoughts to help you evaluate your purchases:

1) Pay attention to the manufacturers you really like. As any regular StogieGuys.com reader knows, I am a big fan of Aging Room cigars. Their blends just about always appeal to my taste. I’ve even gone so far as to violate a basic rule of cigar purchases by buying a box of a new offering before I’d tried one. Other favorites, like Fuente and My Father, also always get a close look from me.

2) Pay attention to tobaccos. Think about those you like and those you don’t. This can be tricky, I’ll be the first to admit. For example, I generally dislike San Andrés. But there are some using it, like E.P. Carrillo’s La Historia, that I think are terrific. Still, given the choice between a new smoke featuring that Mexican leaf and one that doesn’t, I’ll usually pick the cigar without it. Similarly, recognizing tobaccos you usually enjoy can be a deciding factor.

3) Look at the manufacturer’s output. Some companies put out so many new cigars, it is difficult to believe they all can be special. On the other hand, when someone like Padrón puts a new smoke on the market, it is worthy of special notice.

George E

photo credit: Flickr

Quick Smoke: Avo 2nd Movement

17 May 2015

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

Avo’s 2nd Movement is an intriguing combination of some typical Davidoff elements such as a mushroom and grassy flavors with a shade of spice and coffee. The Ecuadorian wrapper is dark and virtually perfect. At 6.25 inches long with a ring gauge of 47, the $11 price tag seems reasonable for the 2014 limited release (1,500 boxes of 20). It’s a fine smoke, though I wouldn’t call it a standout like my favorite Avos. Nonetheless, if you’re an Avo fan, it’s well worth picking up.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: N/A

Quick Smoke: Cohiba Nicaragua N50

9 May 2015

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

cohiba-nic

When I first reviewed this cigar, I thought it might improve with age. It’s been six months, so I plucked one of the General Cigar-supplied samples from my humidor. It did have a bit better balance, but overall still isn’t one I’d reach for, even with online prices now several dollars below the $12.99 list. I have one left and plan to try it in another six months. But until I report again, I can’t really recommend it.

Verdict = Hold.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: La Aurora 1495 Churchill

6 May 2015

1495For many smokers, warm weather signals the time to find some lower-priced sticks that can be enjoyed while pursuing outdoor activities such as golf, fishing, or mowing the lawn.

My advice? Buy a box of La Aurora 1495 Churchills.

Forget the no-name bundles, seconds, factory throwouts, and all those others where you run a high risk of poor construction and inconsistency.

The 1495 delivers top construction and performance with four-alarm smoke production at bargain-basement prices. Just what you’d expect from La Aurora, which has been rolling cigars in the Dominican Republic since 1903.

Check several of the big online retailers, and you’ll find the 1495 at less than $70 for a cardboard box of 25. (Smaller sizes are even cheaper.)

With a ten-year history, this line combines tobacco from Ecuador (wrapper), the Dominican Republic (binder and filler), and Nicaragua and Peru (filler). It’s a smooth combination that creates a mild to medium strength experience.

It’s not overly complex, not the sort you’re likely to look forward to as a celebration stick. But you’ll find nice tobacco flavors with nuts and a subtle spice near the end. At 7 inches with a ring gauge of 50, the 1495 is perfect for those long, sunny afternoons wherever you are or whatever you’re doing.

Smokers looking for a bargain cigar really need look no further. A few years ago, a StogieGuys.com review awarded the 1495 Robusto four stogies.

While, for me, the Churchill isn’t quite at that level, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to new smokers and those looking for a better-than-just-good daily cigar.

I feel the 1495 Churchill is worthy of a strong rating of three and a half stogies out of five.

[To read more StogieGuys.com cigar reviews, please click here.]

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Casa Fernandez Aganorsa Leaf Maduro Délire

30 Apr 2015

casa-fernandez-aganorsa-maduroFirst, a confession. These cigars were in my humidor far longer than I intended. Two Délires were included in a package I received from Casa Fernandez last fall. They got misplaced in my humidor, and I only came across them the other day.

Relieved to have finally found the cigars and eager to give them a try, I lit one up almost immediately.

Going into it, I had some reservations. First, I’m not a big maduro fan, though I do enjoy some of them occasionally. Second, and significantly more important, I’m more than “not a fan” of the Mexican San Andrés wrapper, though, again, there are exceptions.

So, how’d it do? Well, at the start I was a bit concerned. There was a back-of-the-throat sharpness that wasn’t particularly pleasant. But that disappeared within, literally, a few puffs and it was smooth smoking thereafter, particularly as this proved to be one of the San Andrés exceptions. I found none of the disagreeable dirt taste I frequently associate with this leaf.

What I did find was a lot of flavor in the aged Aganorsa tobacco that serves as filler and binder. The Délire is a complex smoke with tastes of burned coffee, sweet black cherry, wood, and leather. I also found the typical maduro sweetness weaving in and out along the way.

Strength was, for me, certainly enough to make an impression but not at all overpowering. Obviously, I can’t say what, if any, impact months in the humidor had, but my guess is that it wasn’t significant.

Construction for the Miami-rolled, lightly-pressed toro was excellent, with an even, slow burn and a tight ash. The draw was near perfect in each of the two samples.

The 6.5-inch, 50-ring gauge Délire (French for “delirium” or “frenzy”) is one of four vitolas in the line and has a more than reasonable MSRP of $8.90. They come packaged in boxes of 15.

I recommend you try this cigar, whatever your general preference. I think you’ll find it a highly engaging and satisfying smoke. I give it a solid four stogies out of five.

[To read more StogieGuys.com cigar reviews, please click here.]

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Avo Heritage Short Robusto

20 Apr 2015

With Avo getting an update—new packaging, lower prices, eliminations—current retailer inventory is a prime candidate for the discount table. At my local shop, the remaining on-hand stock is marked 40 percent off.

Avo Short RobustoAs an Avo fan, I couldn’t resist the bargain. I picked up a 20-count box of the Short Robustos size with a price tag coming in under $4 per cigar. I don’t think I’d ever smoked this little vitola—weighing in at only 4 inches long with a ring gauge of 56—but I’ve enjoyed other Heritage sizes over the years.

The Heritage extension was introduced in 2010 to give Avo a competitor in what was then an emerging market for stronger cigars. It features an oily, brown, sun-grown Ecuadorian wrapper over a Dominican binder and Dominican and Peruvian filler.

For a while, Heritage was hot, helped by its somewhat lower price tag among Avo offerings. Our review of the Robusto not long after it hit the shelves earned a four and a half-stogie rating.

I don’t know how old this box is, but the cellophane on the individual cigars is yellowed considerably, and I’d guess it has been on the shelf for a year or more.

A noticeable pre-light trait is a fairly loose draw, always a concern with a small smoke for fear of overheating the tobacco. But after lighting, there wasn’t a problem; the draw was fine. Other technical aspects like smoke production, burn, and the ash were excellent.

The Heritage is a complex cigar, even in this small package. Beginning with cedar and a hint of the hay and grass common to many Davidoff productions, there’s quickly quite a bit of spice. Along the way, I also picked up cocoa, coffee, and leather, all engaging and harmonious.

The Heritage Short Robusto could be enjoyed any time of the day. It pairs perfectly with a cup of coffee for a morning smoke, even if it’s a bit stronger than many might normally consider at that time of day. If you’re looking for a break in the afternoon, it is an ideal size. Similarly, it’s a cigar to appreciate as a nightcap.

With its good flavors, versatility, and strong performance, I highly recommend the Heritage Short Robusto and concur with the earlier rating given to its sister stick: four and half stogies out of five.

[To read more StogieGuys.com cigar reviews, please click here.]

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Tip: XIKAR PuroTemp Wireless Hygrometer System

14 Apr 2015

xikar-puro-temp-duo

Who among us hasn’t, at least at some point, worried about humidity and their cigars?

Some become obsessive about maintaining conditions, some opt to simply gauge it by feel and instinct, and many fall somewhere in the middle.

I confess I probably am closer to the first category, though more by necessity than temperament.

Florida’s extreme heat makes a cooled humidor almost a necessity. And extraordinarily high humidity levels also can play havoc with humidor conditions. I’m sure many of you in other parts of the country have dramatic weather conditions to contend with as well.

For me, this has meant lots of futzing through the years with ways and means to keep my cigars in shape. The latest: the Xikar PuroTemp Wireless Hygrometer System.

Here are the basics:

There’s a base unit, with stand, that displays the time and, from up to three remote sensors, temperature and relative humidity readings from inside the humidor. The base can also be programmed to beep a warning when temperatures or humidity levels rise or fall to selected points. A button allows you to select displays from each remote unit. The package comes with one sensor, and sensors also are sold individually.

Unlike most better thermometer/hygrometer units, there’s no way to adjust the readings on these. According to Xikar, the company opted instead to invest the time and attention necessary in the factory to get the temperature and humidity settings correct from the start.

It is important to recognize that the wireless technology isn’t WiFi. You can’t interface with a smartphone or computer, so there’s no way to automatically chart the readings over time.

I’ve been using and evaluating my PuroTemp system for about three months and, overall, I’ve found it to perform as advertised. The one caveat occurred about a week or so after I got it home. That was when the connections between the base and the remotes began to drop frequently and then fail to reconnect for a long time, if ever.

I contacted Xikar, and they had no qualms about honoring the lifetime warranty and had me ship the components to Kansas City, Mo. About a week later, I heard from Xikar’s Ken Dolinger, who’d supplied me with information earlier as I prepared this review.

“It was tested by our head engineer, he found that your sensors are working great but something was wrong with your base unit,” Dolinger emailed. “So I will be sending your sensors back and a new base unit.”

Since getting the new base, I’ve experienced no problems.

I tested the unit in numerous ways, including remotes side-by-side in my filled Avallo Cooled 1200 cabinet humidor; remotes individually and together in a sealed container with a 69% Boveda pack; and remotes together and individually in a desktop humidor without cigars and several 69% Boveda packs.

(more…)